The Therapy is Dandy Guide to Having a Parent for a Narcissist. Chapter 24.
Well, well. Look what’s back. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
The thing about writing about narcissists that I have discovered is that it helps get me in touch with my anger. (Some might say too much in fact.) Actually all the writing I do gets me in touch with some emotion. It’s a way I have personally discovered of uncovering my own emotionally camouflaged language and/or reactions. So, when I don’t write, I lose access to one way of expressing powerful emotions. So, this one has been building up for most of this past year.
Isn’t all artistic expression an attempt to communicate something about life, something deeply emotional, something—dare I say—important? If you disagree, you can stop reading now. Really. Stay repressed but angry at yourself.
So, I somehow I have come back around and feel justified about writing about narcissists and all their crap. I don’t know if that is a good thing for you or me, or maybe both.
I sound so bratty! It’s because I am angry, dear readers. But not at you. I am angry at the deficits that growing up around narcissists can cause. I am angry at how long of a shadow those deficits can cast, and how much time it takes to recover and move on from that damage. And I am guessing that you are too. Even if you don’t know it yet.
So that’s where I can try to do my thing.
Narcissists will rarely if ever know how to validate our feelings. They don’t really do other people’s feelings—except in order to better manipulate us into getting whatever they want. And validating another person’s emotional experience is a really important part of a healthy and happy life. And it’s a really important skill for a parent to model and pass on to their children. Its absence can be devastating. If we don’t get our emotional selves validated by our parents, then we grow up not really knowing how to validate ourselves. So, if we feel bad, we can tend to blame ourselves, rather than the environment or the actual cause of our bad feelings. We internalize everything because no one showed us that we had other options.
When we get older and start having relationships and families of our own, we may not do so well at validating other people’s feelings. Because, remember, it was never really modeled for us. So, our partners may think we are aloof, or insensitive, or not caring. We may be really good at problem solving, but problem solving is just one thing, it isn’t the holy grail of relationships. Validating another person’s experience and emotion—even if you completely disagree with them—is far more important than being Mr. or Mrs. Fixit.
A possible reason adult children of narcissists are so drawn to being Mr. or Mrs. Fixit is because solving problems is so validating to their needs. Needs that—remember—were never or quite poorly validated. And for an individual with a sense of self that may be lacking in confidence, even possibly prone to an anxious or avoidant attachment style, problem solving can feel like the best thing ever. But it’s just one thing. And there are a lot of other great things that we get into these complicated relationships for in the first place. Right?
So you have to ask yourself a couple of questions: how much of a problem solver are you? What is it like for you not to solve problems? How good are you at validating people’s emotions (including your own)? Is there someone in your life right now who keeps telling you that you just “don’t understand them?” or, i.e. are not validating their emotional experience?
If so, then you have a condition, son.
More on this next time.
Thanks for hanging in there with me.